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Could “normal accidents,” the notion of multiple and expected failures, be a built-in part of our society’s complex systems? If so, we need to reevaluate our plans for disaster preparedness and consider a different path. In studying the three causes of disaster: natural, organizational, and deliberate, we can see that our best hope lies in the deconcentration of high risk populations, corporate power, and critical infrastructures such as electric energy, computer systems, and the chemical and food industries. Catastrophes of all three kinds are on the rise, and we need a new and penetrating assessment of the very real dangers we face. Along the way we can consider the comprehensive history of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, and examine why these agencies are currently so ill equipped to protect us.